Criticism of the “animal welfare initiative”: animal rights activists speak of fraud

The "Initiative Tierwohl" will continue to focus on quantity instead of quality in the future. The Animal Welfare Association is now terminating the cooperation.

Quite tight here: a barn equipped according to the "Initiative Tierwohl" Photo: dpa

Image damage perfect: The German Animal Welfare Association drops the Initiative Tierwohl. The voluntary industry initiative offers neither a "long-term perspective for animal welfare" nor transparency for the consumer, the Animal Welfare Association explained. In the initiative, retail giants such as Aldi, Lidl and Netto had joined forces with the meat industry and agriculture to counter the visibly critical reactions to factory farming. Since 2015, retailers have been paying four cents into a pot per kilogram of pork or poultry sold. This is used to reward animal owners who treat their animals better, for example by giving them more space.

The German Animal Welfare Association had stood by the initiative in the advisory committee – and thus legitimized it. If the animal rights activists agreed to advise the group, it couldn’t be all that bad – could it?

But the break came when the initiative wanted to hammer out the contracts for the period from 2018. The standards planned for this were not nearly strict enough for the organization; its president, Thomas Schroder, even spoke of fraud in an interview. Should the criteria be adopted as they are, "you can’t talk about more animal welfare," the Neue Osnabrucker Zeitung quoted him as saying. "Then we are probably facing the biggest consumer and animal welfare fraud ever seen in Germany."

The organization is also offended by the fact that consumers still cannot tell whether they are buying a schnitzel from a pig that has benefited from improved husbandry. Moreover, the decisions now taken remain "vague," the association criticizes. "The simplest measures, such as a handful of straw in the pigsties," are "obviously already insurmountable hurdles" for the initiative.

Pigs must be patient

"We have worked with concrete proposals to," says a spokeswoman for the Animal Welfare Association. "But little came there." That farmers could freely choose individual measures, for example, does not make sense, she says.

In fact, the Animal Welfare Initiative’s statement on the plans from 2018 reads more like a declaration of intent than a concrete improvement. For example, when it comes to the elective criterion of roughage. This means, for example, hay, it is considered beneficial for the intestinal health of pigs and keeps them busy.

In addition, the initiative announces: "For the period from 2018, it is to be worked towards that and how in the future roughage can be made available to the pigs for the width of the farms." There many pigs must be patient probably first. "From our point of view, it is not vague," says a spokesman for the Initiative Tierwohl on the allegations. The ideas of the Animal Welfare Association have certainly been taken into account, he says. But first of all, there are many parties involved with whom the criteria have to be agreed, and that takes time, he says. The goal of the initiative is also different from that of an organic label, which has stricter criteria, but only a few animal farmers meet them. "It is still better if the animals are better off across the board," the animal welfare spokesman explains.

But the credibility of the initiative has been damaged. The Greens’ agricultural expert Friedrich Ostendorff also questions it: "How is a broad, credible alliance for more animal welfare supposed to work now without the participation of an animal welfare organization?" The initiative thus remains only "a PR stunt."

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